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§ IV.—CHAPTER VII.

CONSIDERATIONS, ETC.—DERIVED FROM “WRITTEN REVELATION.”

IN the preceding chapters we have carried out our treatment of difficulties regarding the wisdom and goodness of God in so far as we are enabled to do by the light of nature. These difficulties, we have seen, in their most formidable aspect, concentrate in moral evil; which, on the other hand, refuses to be related inductively to the great Source of being, but asserts itself as the mysterious product of the human free-will. In its very nature, sin utterly separates itself from God, while yet bearing in its dark rebellion an unequivocal testimony to the Divine existence and character. Whatever may be its mystery and difficulty, therefore, it seems undoubted that the fact of moral evil is not entitled to affect injuriously the theistic inference.

This conclusion appears to us so far satisfactory. As to the final difficulty of the origin of evil, it has been our express aim to show that it admits in its nature of no solution. It presents an impenetrable mystery; only the hopeless 345darkness which here at length meets us, cannot be allowed to rest legitimately on the Divine character. According even to the testimony of sin itself, that character stands out in clear brightness against it.

In case, however, that any doubt should still surround this conclusion, we are finally led by the terms of our subject into the region of special Divine revelation. We do not suppose that it is meant that we should enter into any special proof of the Divine authority of this revelation. All that seems to us to be appropriately implied in the terms of the Essay is, that we should take a glance at this higher region of revelation before we close. Having sought in the lower region of natural inductive inquiry for all the light within our reach, we are invited finally to cast our gaze to that brighter light which professes to shine upon us directly from God Himself. The very strength and clearness of the lustre which the Christian revelation sheds around the Divine character, may at the same time go far, apart from any formal proof, to vindicate its Divine authority.

Taking up, then, our argument at the point at which we left it, we had reached the conclusion that sin, from its very nature, could not only have no productive relation to God, but was directly opposed to Him. At this point, the gospel meets us in the most significant manner. It declares in its very conception God’s hatred of sin, and opposition to it. It affirms that it was for the very purpose of destroying sin that He sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world. We are no longer left to infer from a process of reasoning regarding 346the Divine character, as revealed in the depths of our own conscience, that God is opposed to sin, but in the mission and death of the Lord Jesus He Himself makes this specially known to us with the most solemn effect. All our Lord did and suffered bore the same meaning of Divine hatred against sin. All expressed with an imperishable force that God is “of purer eyes than to behold evil,” and cannot “look on iniquity.”

Thus carrying on our argument from the negative point at which we left it, we see with what decisive clearness the gospel interprets the indications of nature, and shows that the burden and injury of sin, however inscrutable, are directly rejected by God. Ascending slowly towards this conclusion from the attentive scrutiny of our moral consciousness, we are met by a direct utterance from God Himself, which places our conclusion beyond all hesitation, and enables us to rest in it with an impregnable security.

But this negative testimony bears us but a little way into the full light which the Gospel sheds upon the Divine character. In this indirect manner it serves to vindicate that character from the application of the objection founded on the existence of moral evil; but in what a positive glory of wisdom and beneficence does it further place it! If its utterance, on the one hand, is that God is righteous, and hateth sin; its utterance, on the other, is that “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all;”168168   1 John, i. 5. and, moreover, and emphatically, that “God is love.”169169   Ibid., iv. 8. “In this was manifested 347the love of God towards us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”170170   1 John, iv. 8, 9, 10. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life.”171171   John, iii. 16.

Such is the full lustre of meaning which the revelation of the Lord Jesus sheds upon the dim hints of nature. If, after all their study of the latter, there be minds that return uncertain whether the Power that speaks to them in its varied changes, and is present in its varied aspects, be a beneficent Power, here, as it were, the heavens open, and a voice is heard whose utterance is a gospel of love. Whatever doubts may remain to the merely natural view,—whatever difficulties may impede the promptings of the heart,—are for ever dissipated by the clear and strong truth not only announced in words, but expressed in action,—not only declared by the mouth of an apostle, but exemplified by the mission and death of His own Son,—that God is love. “Scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”172172   Romans, v. 7, 8.

Sin, we see, so far from being entitled to darken to us in any degree the character of God, is the very fact which serves to bring out, in its greatest fulness and depth of brightness, 348the beneficence of that character. It is against this dark shadow that its lustre comes forth with the most glorious clearness. Had there been no sin, it is true that its difficulty would not have perplexed us. Yet it is to the very presence of sin we owe the surpassing manifestation of Divine goodness in the gospel. We see the Divine love here as we could not otherwise have seen it, stronger than sin or death, triumphing over the very enmity assailing it, and out of the very darkest difficulty in the moral universe bringing forth the most significant tribute to the wisdom and beneficence of the Divine government.

It is especially in the perfect harmony of Divine righteousness and love, as displayed in the gospel,—in the spectacle which it exhibits of God hating sin, and yet loving the sinner,—that its testimony is so emphatic, and that we are enabled to dwell with such satisfaction on that testimony. We have already seen how inalienably intertwined are the attributes of goodness and righteousness—how the former only sustains itself in the latter, and, apart from it, would wholly fail to preserve its own peculiar life and virtue; but while our highest conception of those attributes shows them indeed to be one and indivisible, yet it must be admitted that they present themselves in the mirror of actual life frequently broken and dissevered. We see the traces of each, on the one hand, in happiness—on the other, in punishment; but we fail often to see their harmony; we are unable to join in a living synthesis the scattered intimations of nature; we cannot bring into consistency its disjointed speech. But 349in the revelation of the Lord Jesus, the fragmentary hints of nature receive a consistent and satisfactory interpretation. Goodness and righteousness are beheld in the sacrifice of the Cross as nowhere else. Here “mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”173173   Psalm xxxv. 10. Here the strength of love and “the beauty of holiness” are mingled in a centre of Divine perfection, upon which the human heart can repose for ever with the firmest faith and liveliest hope.

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